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Monday, July 22, 2013

Book review: Hospital: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God, and Diversity on Steroids by Julie Salamon

While I never was able to pronounce the name of Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn,  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it.

The last bit of the subtitle: "and Diversity on Steroids" initially had me rolling my eyes, and even made me think twice about buying the book, as it seemed flip and unserious, but after reading it, it's quite seriously true and was the fact about the hospital that left the biggest impression on me. Now I lived in Queens for five years, so I thought I knew diversity, but what Mainmonides has to deal with on a daily basis is truly astonishing. More than seventy languages are regularly spoken by patients, and the hospital needs to have translators in all of those languages. The cafeteria is kosher and also serves goat and Chinese food - but you can't get a cheeseburger. One elevator is set up that on Saturdays (the Sabbath), Orthodox Jews won't have to push the buttons in it - it just stops at every single floor. The difficulties and complications of dealing with such a variety of religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds floored me.

Unlike all other books about the medical field that I've read, this one is not from the point of view of a doctor. Ms. Salamon is a journalist and has as much understanding of the medicine going on, as I do. So understandably she focuses on the other lay people in the hospital - the administrators and staff. Running a business of this size with this quantity of employees and moving parts is a daunting task, which was made worse by the brand-new CEO being in a terrible car accident just weeks after taking over, yet she impressively muscled on with her duties, despite pain and multiple surgeries. She was a rather prickly person as well, with a variety of odd quirks, and yet she seemed to have a handle on things even if not everyone liked the way she worked. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of different offices I've worked in, with the politics, personality conflicts, and endless meetings which showed that a hospital is not some glorified exalted workplace, but just a regular, normal business environment where the business happens to be saving lives.

With an extra-large cast of characters, I was at times confused, and yet I found it fairly easy reading (and there's a helpful list of the people at the beginning). It's not for someone looked for a light read or a medical thriller, but it is a must-read for anyone looking to go into the medical field, to learn more about what their day-to-day workplace will be like.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

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